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Obama as Reagan

Topics: Approval Ratings , Barack Obama , midterm , Ronald Reagan


I've been struck for some time by the similarity of circumstance between Presidents Reagan and Obama. Both replaced deeply unpopular predecessors. Both enjoyed significant gains for their party in both houses of Congress. Both faced "worst since the depression" economic circumstances. And each in his own very different ways attempted to reshape government in the early months in office.

With a bit more than 10 months of approval data on Obama, we can now make a more meaningful comparison than was possible at the first 100 days look.

The similarity of approval trajectories is striking for Reagan and Obama. Reagan started lower, but since the 3rd month of office the two have moved along quite similar paths.

Of the ten post-war presidents in the chart, Reagan and Obama currently stand as the two lowest at this point in their first term. (Clinton fell lower early, but was recovering at this point before another decline and rise.) Reagan finished as the second lowest just before his midterm in 1982, ahead of only Truman. It happens that the economy under Reagan also bottomed out in November 1982, the worst possible time for the president and his party.

(I exclude Johnson because of his entry into office after Kennedy's midterm and Ford because he took office just 3 months before the 1974 mid-term. I keep Truman because he assumed the presidency very early in Roosevelt's fourth term, effectively serving the full term.)

Whether Obama continues to look like Reagan seems to me more likely to be driven by the same force-- the economy. While health care reform and Afghanistan will surely play a role in the public's view of Obama, I think the economy remains the most crucial driver of opinion. In this the administration can hope that the upturn in GDP in the third quarter, and the small down-tick in unemployment in November, are signals that the early quarters of 2010 will see further improvements. If so, the Democrats may avoid the terrible conjunction of midterm and economic bottom that cost Republicans 26 seats in the 1982 House elections. And President Obama may not compete with Reagan to see which will be the second most unpopular president at midterm time. But there are no guarantees of this and the parallels remain quite striking.



It is striking, but we must consider the effect the one extraordinary event on Reagan's 69th day in office had on his approval rating: he survived a near-fatal assassination attempt, telling three heartstring-pulling jokes to his wife and doctors before being operated on, and recovered enough to return to the White House within two weeks. Two weeks earlier, his Gallup number was 60, up 5 from his tax cut speech a month earlier. So he was getting some good traction. But 6 days after being shot, his approval jumped to 67, and stayed at that plateau for about a month and a half. One has to wonder how much more quickly he might have sunk below the 50% mark if he had never been shot. And then also what Obama's rating would be if he were to suffer a similar attempt.



There have been very few external events (like Reagan's shooting) this year to raise Obama's ratings. Mainly all that has happened is that the economy has been slow to recover and Obama has basically just done his job and given a few speeches. It's not surprising in that context that his ratings continue on a downward trajectory. In order to have a spike in ratings, something needs to happen where he can use executive power and look presidential. Simply dealing with pre-existing problems like the economy and Afghanistan aren't going to do much to help him because half the people are not going to like what he does on those fronts.

I think a lot of people blamed George W. Bush for basically everything that ailed the country and somehow thought that Obama would magically fix it. Obama's ratings at the outset of his presidency were way overinflated.



>>>Democrats may avoid the terrible conjunction of midterm and economic bottom that cost Republicans 26 seats in the 1982 House elections.

I think that is an exceedingly exuberant sentiment. I think EVEN IF a goldilocks scenario materializes, in which the GDP shows descent growth in each of the next four quarterly reports, unemployment goes down to around 8-8.5% by election day, and there is some perceived progress in Afghanistan and maybe even Iran, Dems would be lucky to lose ONLY 26 House seats. Even if Obama's approval goes up measurably. Which it will if such a goldilocks scenario does come to pass.

Dems' problem is twofold. One, even if Obama regains much of his popularity, he won't be on the ticket in Nov 2010. Two, in 08 GOP's base was demoralized and lethargic. It's not anymore and it won't be in 2010.

What we saw in 08 was tons of first time voters at the polls for Obama, combined with tons of regular GOP voters staying home. That is going to be reversed in 10. Dems do have a bit of a hope in that enough conservative third party candidates can split the vote, so Dems still end up doing well, but thus far, I am not really seeing enough third party organization on a large enough scale to make significant inroads. Looks like GOP primaries should take care of most of that process.

So, I'd venture to guess that GOP gains about 25-30 seats even if Obama's approval goes back up to 60+, and perhaps as many as 45-50 seats if it doesn't.



That is a good analogy that Obama when it comes to the economy is in a similar position as Reagan. Hopefully as a believer of Keynesian style economics which Reagan didn't support, Obama has a more likely chance to create jobs sooner than Reagan, but being said, is put on a higher pedestal of expectations. When a conservative says "let the market take care of itself", the average people who are apolitical and don't keep up on this issues will be more patient with someone like Reagan. That is why Obama has far more challenges ahead of him. He also has a war to deal with. Obama is the kind of guy who can handle and stay calm to handle the preasure. I would not be able to bend over backwards and get the shit from the American public Obama is getting. The poll numbers on Gallup don't ad up though. Independents make up 50 percent of the population, yet Republicans make up 20 percent.



It is hard to believe Reagan was ever below 40 percent approval. Even with him, that didn't start happening until he had been in office for nearly 2 years. With the exception of die hard Republicans and leaners, I have to say shame on these malcontents that they are letting an inperfect economy at this point affect their opinion of the president. I like to remind these people when I meet them just how angry the public was in 2007 and early 2008 with Bush and Cheney. No Democracy should be subjected to liars and decievers like that. I don't agree with Afghanistan and other things Obama is supporting but I know that since the decision has been made he will consult with the military powers that be to make the right decision. His bipartisanship has been overlooked. On military and foreign affairs he has done a whole lot more than any recent president to bring Republicans into his administration, yet his approval among them is 14 percent. That is someone with guts. If I were president I don't think I would be able to do that.



StatyPolly's comments made my day. I wish I could be optimistic like that. The human tendency the the average American isn't loyalty though, but to blame the party in power. Democrats regained the house and senate not at a good time, since we were on the brink of recession, our country had been lied to about Iraq. Obama has his work cut out for him for 2010 to end reasonably okay for the Democrats. These times of indecision are rough.


Bobbe Lee:

Wow, thats actually making sme pretty good sense dude!



Bobbe Lee:

Pretty compelling when you think about it.




I think Democrats will do just fine in the 2010 midterms if a good health care bill is signed before the end of the year, especially in the US Senate. THe progressive base needs to be inspired. Likewise, if the unemployment rate is reduced to what it was in early 2008, Democrats could actually pick up seats. THe GOP has no strategy at all and all they really want to do is kill reform and use misleading theories to back up with their myths. If the Blue Dogs and the GOP kill health care reform, than losses could be catestrophic for the Democrats. For progressives, I would advise them to keep their friends focused and fired up. I think the right wing wins elections when the progressives lose hope and slack off. We cannot do this.


A Facebook User:

I personally think the reason why we're in this depression, (yes I said depression, not recession) is because we're overly populated and the majority of people aren't helping the situation for our country by fraudulent checks, exceeding their credit card limits, and the government has a bail out plan for every American, we're the only nation that does that. We also give too many chances to the criminals, whom keep coming due to institutionalization. If we allowed the death penalty once again, and were harder on ourselves once like we were in our past, that of which originally made this nation great, we wouldn't be spending as much on jails, security, food, etc. Everything would drop due to the fact less would be used. I bet the American population is near its highest if not the highest its reached since its existence.



Interesting comparison. However, there is something that bothers me greatly about both. President Reagan's initial approval appears to be somewhat below his winning percentage at the election while President Obama's appears to be very much above. Why is that?




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RR cut taxes. Economy recovered. Obama went progressive and will doom America. CLOWARD PIVEN, what Obama uses to purposely destroy America to recreate progressively liberal. Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex, every president since JFK betrayed America to it (Recently now also the banking oligarchs). 70% of the total budget is Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, welfare, workfare, social security and interest on debt. 70% of your government does nothing but entitlements, and all governments since LBJ robbed those entitlements. This in addition to the facts that even without the looting the mandates are totally unfundable.

America. Life Liberty Pursuit of Happiness and Property. Constitution. Bill of Rights.

No where is it within in the POWERS of government to provide a standard of living. No where is this enumerated. The biggest threat to the constitution is a government plying you with unenumerated "rights" to entitlements and social contracts and the bribe you with your own money! You actually will pay to get your own money back 30 cents on the dollar to feed a police state into wealth redistribution. What a crock.

Dangerous Obama has said this:

"We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set.

We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. "

He wants to create an "above the law" Sturmabteilung/brownshirts gestapo style band of thugs that answer to him.

He doesn't care if its green, if its Organizing for America, or if its health care and using the IRS to use thug tactics to further shakedown America. This horrible ad is a scary precursor of things to come in America.


These "Teaparty" issues have percolated up with Ross Perot several times before. One might take a look at perotcharts.com before spouting off about progressive liberalism being a good thing. Yet, as Perot and folks like Ron Paul were laughed at in the past, now not so much. You see, they basically predicted the future with shocking accuracy. The deficits, the spending beyond income even during prosperity, the perpetual wars and the unfunded social entitlement programs that have no hope of working even during good economic times is eclipsing American power.

Some are trying to erect a socialist state like that of say, Sweden. Yet, Sweden is a homogeneous culture, small population ~9 million, good natural borders and before rampant taxation moved a number of prolific businesses away, this country of 9 million made cars, cell phones, jet aircraft, heavy industry equipment, gave rise to Ikea, etc.

The problem is simple. The US is 300+ million with a leaky border. Socialism will break this union faster than can be imagined. One might argue this is the point and a Cloward-Piven strategy, but its probably just ignorance.

The US competes with India and China. Brazil and Russia are also players, but the two main players are India and China. These countries are not dumb, are being lead in a much smarter way, and are not shooting themselves in the foot. These "socialist/communist" countries are nothing of the sort, the entitlements are bare to non existent, they foster business, ruthlessly defend local business against foreign business and are more capitalist than the United States. They have more people in their top 10% of every category than the US has people.

So progressive liberals - keep spending, keep expending government and chasing away business and keep trying to turn on the tax spigot (any new taxes for the upper echelons of society will be passed on to the consumer/buyer/renter) and getting less and less revenue over time as you collapse the economy.

Obama is a profligate spender, a friend to the banksters, a traitor that defaces US credibility and currency and is a tool to Statist autocratic authoritarians erecting a police state and defacing the constitution.

All of this spending, particularly on healthcare, is pointless, and if it had a point it would be a Cloward Piven deconstruction strategy. THE USA IS BROKE. Face it. Unemployment @ 10%. Underemployment @17%. True Unemployment, who knows? 20+% Can't tax those who don't work. 80% of the treasuries this year, 2009, were BOUGHT BY THE FED. That means the government is loaning to itself with interest that you are paying and inventing money because its broke. 1 in 6 FHA loans, which are new, are already delinquent. The country is broke, and if you are still thinking about getting something for nothing health care you are focusing on the wrong thing right now. The government is the enemy and the government has betrayed you. They have NOTHING, and anything the government does have they TOOK from someone else.



Please. Please. I true sign of desperation is to compare Obama to Reagan. http://www.clubpenguingang.com


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